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Today's China

Page history last edited by Bob Andrian 6 years, 8 months ago

Today's China


The journalist, Evan Osnos, who spent the last eight years in China, and who recently wrote a book entitled Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China, offered these observations about the state of affairs in today's China:


[Today's China] is a time of plenty--the crest of a transformation one hundred times the scale, and ten times the speed, of the first Industrial Revolution, which created modern Britain. The Chinese people no longer want for food--the average citizen eats six times as much meat as in 1976--but this a ravenous era of a different kind, a period when people have awoken with a hunger for new sensations, ideas, and respect. China is the world's largest consumer of energy, movies, beer, and platinum; it is building more high-speed railroads and airports than the rest of the world combined. ...


In 1978, the average Chinese income was $200; by 2014, it was $6,000. By almost every measure, the Chinese people have achieved longer, healthier, more educated lives. (Osnos, 3-4)


Of course, as the author notes, even today's fast growing China "remains a poor country in which the average person earns as much as a Japanese citizen in 1970." (Ibid, 5)


China today is riven by contradictions. It is the world's largest buyer of Louis Vuitton, second only to the U.S. in its purchases of Rolls-Royces and Lamborghinis, yet ruled by a Marxist-Leninist party that seeks to ban the word luxury from billboards. The difference in life expectancy and income between China's wealthiest cities and its poorest provinces is the difference between New York and Ghana.


China has two of the world's most valuable Internet companies [Tencent and Alibaba], and more people online than the United States, even as it redoubles its investment in history's largest effort to censor expression. China has never been more pluralistic, urban, and prosperous, yet it is the only country in the world with a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in prison. ...


In the early years of the twenty-first century, China encompasses two universes: the world's newest superpower and the world's largest authoritarian state. Some days, I spent the morning with a new tycoon and the evening with a dissident under house arrest. (Osnos, 5-6)



The China scholar, Perry Link, argues that these dichotomies have long been the creation of Western perception. In his mind, Chinese observers don't see a split at all.


Inside the country, the wealth and the repression are all one bundle. Authoritarian government makes possible an easy exploitation of unfree labor; workers in huge numbers generate vast wealth; most of the great wealth goes back to the authoritarians, who become objects of popular resentment and thus feel a need to repress even more. (Link, "He Exposed Corrupt China Before He Left," NYReview of Books, 8/14/14) 


Where does China's dramatic rise stand in relationship to the rest of the world? Are there well known Chinese "brands" in the global marketplace? What is the "China Dream" that President Xi Jinping has been proclaiming? Why does it seem to difficult to define?


What does Tiananmen 1989 have to do with all of this anyway?




Link to Tiananmen home page

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